Suspect in Massive Methamphetamine Pill Bust Jumps Bail

The chief suspect in Cam­bodia’s largest methamphetamine bust has jumped bail after being released from prison on the strength of bogus medical re­ports, court officials in Banteay Meanchey province said on Tuesday.

Suspect Nget Savuth, 34, was arrested by military police in Banteay Meanchey province in August after more than 61,300 methamphetamine pills, two pistols and an AK-47 rifle were discovered in his vehicle near Poipet.

Provincial Military Police Chief Rath Srieng said at the time that Nget Savuth admitted to smuggling the pills, but would not name the ringleaders of the operation or say whether the drugs were produced in Cambodia.

“I just heard yesterday from the media that [the suspect] has escaped,” Nhoung Thol, Banteay Meanchey court prosecutor, said by telephone.

“The court released Nget Savuth on November 23 because his family requested bail with documents to the court that said he is really sick,” Nhoung Thol said.

According to Nhoung Thol, Nget Savuth was given bail on the strength of medical reports stating the suspect was seriously ill and suffering from Hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS.

Nhoung Thol said he reissued a warrant for Nget Savuth’s arrest after reading in Khmer-language newspapers that the suspect was spotted by military police officials “doing business” in Poipet.

The medical reports were probably fake, Nhoung Thol said, adding that the suspect could faces up to 20 years in prison or a fine of up to $12,500 if convicted.

Military Police in Banteay Meanchey could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

However Ieang Klin, Banteay Meanchey provincial court investigating judge, said on Tuesday that Nget Savuth was not guilty of any offense related to the drugs haul.

“It’s up to the prosecutor to judge whether he is involved or not. But he did not arrange to put the drugs in his vehicle, someone else put them in the vehicle. He just drove that vehicle,” Ieang Klin said.

Prison guards in Banteay Meanchey provincial prison, where Nget Savuth was detained, said on Tuesday he had shown no signs of illness.

Production and consumption of methamphetamines has burgeoned in Cambodia in recent years.

In July, Thai police seized 430,000 methamphetamine pills in Bangkok that they say emanated from Cambodia.

Cambodian anti-drug officials said the size of the July haul—worth some $244,000—indicated its origin was Burma or Laos, but it may have passed through Cam­bodia to reach Thailand.

The botched court case will be seen as another black spot in Cambodia’s efforts to stem the flood of methamphetamine pills for local users and opium and heroin hauls for international trans-shipment.

The Interior Ministry’s Anti-Narcotics Police Chief Pich Chivorn was recently dropped from his position following claims of poor work performance.

The police chief’s dismissal surprised international anti-narcotics experts and a Cambodian police official who said there were ru­mors Pich Chivorn had stepped on powerful toes in recent, high-profile drug trafficking investigations.

 

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